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SAILING

Swedish team penalized in Volvo Ocean Race

A Swedish sailing team entered in the Volvo Ocean Race, in which teams circumnavigate the globe, was penalized by international sailing authorities on Thursday because the boat’s keel failed to comply with the rules.

The keel of the Ericsson Nordic yacht, one of eight teams that will embark on the grueling race on October 11, “contained cavities which could not be completely filled, and was therefore not solid,” a jury appointed by the International Sailing Federation said.

It ruled that the team may take part in the race, but must receive point reductions at each stage.

Ericsson Nordic is one of two Swedish teams entered in the race from the Spanish Mediterranean port of Alicante to St Petersburg in Russia. The other is the race favorite Ericsson International.

Ericsson Racing Team’s managing director, Richard Brisius, said he was “really shocked” by the decision, and called on the jury to reopen the hearing so the team could present new evidence.

“We thought we had made it perfectly clear that we used the best endeavours possible to comply with the rules,” he told a news conference. “But the jury has decided to give us a penalty which is at a level which we have never seen in this race before.”

At issue are three cavities in the keel, which the team had filled with 162.55 kilograms of steel. “However, there are still some voids equal to 625 grams,” said the team’s legal counsel, Luis Saenz.

Asked if he might withdraw the boat from the race, Brisius said “at this stage, I’d prefer not to answer that.”

Other teams taking part are Spain’s Telefonica Black and Telefonica Blue, Team Russia, US entry Puma Ocean Racing, the Sino-Irish Green Dragon and Team Delta Lloyd from the Netherlands.

There are nine stops – Cape Town, Cochin, Singapore, Qingdao, Rio de Janeiro, Boston, Galway, Gothenburg and Stockholm – before the finish in St Petersburg, expected in June 2009.

The teams receive points according to their position in each leg.

VOLVO

British sailor on verge of Gothenburg double

Briton Ian Walker aims to complete a rare Volvo Ocean Race double on Saturday as the biggest yachting race in the world finally reaches its climax in the Swedish port of Gothenburg.

British sailor on verge of Gothenburg double
British sailor Ian Walker. Photo: TT
Walker's Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing already claimed the overall, offshore trophy, the main event of the nine-month, 38,739-nautical mile offshore marathon, in Gothenburg on Monday.
 
His team are also six points ahead in the in-port series that has been held in the 10 ports hosting the triennial event since it started in Alicante, Spain, on October 4th last year.
 
Anything other than a failure to finish or last place in the seven-strong fleet coupled with a victory for closest rivals, Team Brunel (Netherlands), in Saturday's Gothenburg race will see the Emirati-backed crew over the line as in-port champions.
 
Brunel were also second to Abu Dhabi in the offshore race.
 
The offshore and in-port double is not unique in Volvo Ocean Race history — Mike Sanderson's ABN AMRO ONE achieved it in 2005-06 — but victory would be another major feather in the cap for a region which only entered the 41-year-old event for the first time in 2011-12 under the Abu Dhabi flag.
 

The Volvo race ends in Gothenburg this weekend. Photo: TT
 
Walker, 45, was taking nothing for granted in the nine-month race's final press conference on Friday.
 
“We try to win everything we do,” he said. “Basically, we just have to make sure we don't finish last.
 
“But it's a pretty tight race course and there's plenty of trouble out there if you're not careful.”
 
Team Brunel skipper Bouwe Bekking, 52, could be forgiven for being sick of the sight of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's stern after trying to catch it over 38,739 nautical miles and nine offshore legs.
 
However, he has not totally given up hope of an upset result that will rely on his opponents slipping up uncharacteristically badly.
 
“We will fight for it and we still have a slight chance,” he told reporters. “It would certainly be nice to win that trophy.”
 
The action will start at 2pm local time (12pm GMT) and so far the forecasters are predicting strong enough winds to offer the prospect of a fitting finale to the memorable and extraordinarily close-run global event.